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by Jenni Davidson
16 December 2016
Cut to legal aid budget a ‘cause for concern’, says Law Society of Scotland

Cut to legal aid budget a ‘cause for concern’, says Law Society of Scotland

Scottish Parliament windows - Image credit: Holyrood

The reduction in Scotland’s legal aid budget proposed in yesterday’s Scottish budget is a “cause of concern” according to the Law Society of Scotland.

While welcoming the small rise in funding for justice overall and the Scottish Government’s commitment to legal aid, Law Society of Scotland president Eilidh Wiseman said the budget did not “dispel concerns” about the sustainability of the legal aid system.

She said: “We are pleased to see the slight increase in investment in the justice sector overall.

“The reality however, is that much of this has been allocated to the police and fire service, which will mean another challenging year for other areas of the justice sector.

“The proposed budget for legal aid has seen a slight decrease from £136.9m to £135.2m. This is a cause for concern given the expected spend for this year is £138.4m.

“We are pleased to see that the Scottish Government remains committed to the principle of legal aid funding being demand led and ensuring the necessary money is available, whatever budget is set now.

“However this does not dispel our concerns around the sustainability of the current legal aid system. 

“In particular, current rates of payment for legal aid work risk making the provision of legal services to some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, simply uneconomical.

“We already know that gaps are developing in the provision of legal aid in parts of Scotland and we have to work hard to stop these gaps from growing.

“The government has made clear its intention to conduct a full review of the legal aid system in the New Year.

“We strongly welcome this and look forward to discussing our ideas and suggested reforms which we believe will help ensure people access the legal advice and services they need, where and when they need them.”

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